Orsoq III, Subarctic Sushi!
In her performance “Orsoq III, subarctic sushi!”, Jessie Kleemann, dressed in a revealing black dress and barefooted, works with a signature material of her home island, Greenland. She approaches a pile of blubber, laid out on an otherwise empty, black stage, and proceeds to handle the greasy material, balancing it on her hands, taking it into her mouth, letting it slide down her cleavage, cutting it with a special knife, and moving it across the stage. After each action, she stares at the audience, makes faces, flashes fake smiles, like voicelessly asking provoking questions, about herself, her actions, her position as an indigenous woman in the art context, and frequently evokes uncomfortable laughter from the audience. The performance ends with Jessie wrapping herself in the large sheet of protective plastic that has covered and protected the stage during the performance, packaging herself as a product, Subarctic Sushi, for our consumption.
For COLAB Copenhagen, Jessie worked together with Christian Etongo, performance artist from Cameroon. Cameroon and Greenland are 8,058 kilometers apart. At first glance, one can only see differences between those countries – their cultures, geography, climate conditions, traditions, etc. But Christian Etongo and Jessie Kleemann found an important aspect that links both of their countries of origin – their colonial past. Their research focussed on the disappearance of traditions and rituals as a consequence of colonialism and imperialist repression. In their performance, to be seen on the video below, Christian and Jessie revive, today, those forgotten, often prohibited past rituals.
“In our research, we discovered that both of our respective works were in search of a re-evaluation of our cultures. By reenacting, in collaboration, certain traditions and rituals of our home countries, we believe we can open a debate about the consequences of colonialism and imperialism and how it influenced our people to repress our own cultures.”
About the Artist
Jessie Kleemann was born in Upernavik in northern Greenland and trained as a lithographic artist. From 1978 to 1979, she was a student at the Tuukkaq theatre in Fjaltring in northern Jutland, from 1984 to 1991 director of the school of arts in Nuuk, during which period she took leave in 1989 in connection with the staging of the play Asanninneq naliitsoq, based on Märta Tikkanen’s Århundradets kärlekssaga. Between 1991 and 1993, she was the coordinator of the exhibition project Arts from the Arctic as part of the UNESCO programme for the decade of indigenous people. She has participated in Nordic and international exhibitions and had many solo exhibitions. As a poet she represented Greenland at Nordic and international literary events. Her first independent poetry collection was Taallat. Digte. Poems, published in 1997.
She is known for her provocative performance art, in which she has developed her own form of “body art”, based on ancient masque performances. She uses her own body as a living canvas, often incorporating it into her exhibitions.
More info can be found on Jessie’s website.